Art historians Reinhard Hassert and Eddy Batache were two of Francis Bacon’s closest friends in Paris. Bacon was a passionate Francophile who visited Paris regularly throughout his life, and from 1975 he owned a flat located just a stone’s throw away from Hassert and Batache, at 14 rue de Birague.
In the same year Bacon encountered Batache by accident. He was en route to visit a mutual friend - the painter Vladimir Velickovic, who also lived nearby. The following evening’s dinner, with Hassert in attendance as well, marked the start of a friendship that would last until Bacon’s death in 1992.
‘Francis enjoyed discussing anything and everything with us: literature, painting, facts and even politics’, but also his most intimate thoughts and feelings, Hassert and Batache recalled.
The trio travelled frequently in France, Germany, Italy and Holland. They would take trips see art, enjoy good wine, and visit friends like the Irish artists Anne Madden and Louis le Brocquy in the South of France. In 1979, a visit to Chantilly had a direct impact on Bacon’s Male Nude before Mirror, 1990: the railing in the work derived from a photograph Batache had taken of Bacon at the Chantilly racecourse.
Although Bacon cherished the pair’s opinions greatly, he rarely allowed them to watch him work. One notable exception was their witnessing of the completion of Jet of Water, 1979. Bacon had expressed that ‘there’s something missing’ in the painting, and to the surprise of his friends, suddenly threw a lump of paint onto the canvas. After that, Batache remembered ‘in a few minutes the work was transformed and completed’.
To Bacon, the friendship and loving relationship between Hassert and Batache was both difficult to grasp and fascinating, as his own companionships were often turbulent and determined by sado-masochistic power dynamics.
Learn more about Reinhard Hassert and Eddy Batache’s relationship with Francis Bacon on The Estate of Francis Bacon website.